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Sacha Guitry once said, "You can pretend to be serious, but you can't pretend to be witty." Oh yes, I'm the great pretender.
(pilot episode: 20 January 2004)

Monday, October 22, 2012

The Friendship Conundrum

How should one behave when his friend is doing something that one doesn’t agree with? Are there friendship rules on that?

My take on the matter is simple. As friends, we need not agree on everything. Thus, we can have differences in terms of tastes, likes, and even morals. As friends, we appreciate our similarities and tolerate our differences. Just like with boyfriends and partners, irreconcilable differences are deal breakers. If you can’t stand to have a friend who doesn’t share the same values as yours, then it’s time to reassess your friendship.

Let’s consider several scenarios:

[1] What if you suspect that your friend who is in an exclusive relationship with someone else is fooling around? Suspicion is not yet grounds for accusation. If you and he are close enough as friends, then you are in a position to bring it up with him. You can tell him something like, “Hey, I’ve heard something that concerns you, and it’s quite sensitive. Can we discuss it?” If your friend says that nothing is going on, give him the benefit of the doubt. If you can’t give him the benefit of the doubt, then either you’ve judged him to be incapable of staying on the straight and narrow path, or you should reconsider your friendship with him.

[2] What if you have undeniable proof that your friend is fooling around? As a friend, you have every right to bring this up with him. If you don’t agree with what he’s doing, you can tell him that. (If you agree with him fooling around, well then, no wonder you’re friends!) You can advise him on what to do, but basically you will have to honor his decision. As a friend, your duty ends there. How your friend moves forward and addresses it with his boyfriend is a matter that’s between the two. Better keep a respectful distance.

[3] What if you’re close to just the one who’s fooling around? Then as a friend you can talk to him, but only to him. If you value his friendship, or if you prefer an uncomplicated life, under no circumstances should you squeal to his partner.

[4] What if you’re close friends with both parties? In general, rule number 3 applies here. The spirit of the rule is simple: Talk to the one who is fooling around, not the one who’s being fooled behind his back.

However, this situation is quite tricky, because ultimately you will want to be fair to both since they are your friends. You may ask the one being cheated on, “Hey, how are you and your BF?” Or depending on your skills, you may choose to drop hints. But if he asks you outright if his partner is cheating, then I believe you have the obligation to tell the truth.

Which is why, if I’m friends with both parties who are in an exclusive relationship, I think I’ll want to ask them ahead of time, in front of the both of them: “Hey guys, we’re all close friends here, right? If I find out that one of you is fooling around behind the other one’s back, WHAT WOULD WANT ME TO DO? Is it okay for both of you that I squeal on the other?” By turning the question on to them, you’re forcing them to decide what their expectations are from you as their friend. Then it becomes a clear-cut agreement between all three of you.

It also sends a clear message to both of them: If one of them wants to fool around behind his partner’s back, he should also make sure he keeps his fooling around a secret from you. Then you’ll be oblivious. Ignorance is indeed bliss.


Xander said...

so you've actually asked that question? how did that conversation go?

rudeboy said...

One of my best yardsticks for true friendship is the ease and willingness to call out and be called out for bullshit.

It's become a defining factor in my friendships, which must explain why I have so few "true" friends. Not everyone wants to hear it when they're screwing up their lives, their jobs, their loved ones. I'm all for minding one's own business - most of the time. But personally, I think it behooves us as friends to shake our friends - sometimes literally - whenever they are losing their shit.

As I like to say : "An enemy is someone who stabs you from the back. A friend is someone who stabs you from the front."

Make of it what you will.

joelmcvie said...

@XANDER: No, but I will VERY SOON.

@RUDEBOY: I agree that friends should be able to call each other out. However, if there is a major disagreement between the two of you as to what constitutes "losing their shit," then either you embrace that difference between you two, or keep your distance.

john stan said...

Two Christmases ago, I found out the main reason why an old friend did what he did to me. Your second scenario is very fitting.

I haven't talked to him since then.